Yes, I Love YA

I can’t count the number of times that, when I have told people that I mostly read Young Adult books, they’ve turned to me and said something like: “Don’t you think they’re a bit trashy? When are you going to start reading real books?”

About three years ago, someone in the bookshop said that I was going to run out of YA books to read, and that I should start on adult. I bought a few adult books, and I did enjoy them, but fast forward to today and I’m still reading mainly YA. And wonderful YA is still being written.

I really hate the idea that YA and children’s books are somehow less worthwhile than the ones in the adult section. Okay, they’re pretty much all narrated by teens and young people. But what’s wrong with that? We have lives that are just as complex as anyone else’s, and we deserve a voice — we deserve to read about people who are also going through a period of testing boundaries and discovering yourself. In some ways, it seems to me the most interesting age a narrator can be.

Putting down YA books only puts down young people and their voices, when we should be doing exactly the opposite! When people start to say that we’re just mindlessly addicted to social media and don’t have any opinions beyond celebrities, it’s just discouraging us from speaking up.

Having a younger narrator doesn’t mean a book is any less worth reading, or any less interesting. In fact, YA books cover a wide range of complex, important themes but in a way that’s really accessible. Yep, a book can be readable and nuanced! Writing an awesome YA book isn’t any less work than writing an adult novel; there are just so many different genres within each of those brackets.

Maybe reading YA doesn’t require as much consideration as a novel with Victorian language might, but personally I think it’s really difficult to get a love for reading by starting straight with ‘classics’. I really appreciate that some people love them, but personally — and I say this as someone who has always loved books — they take me a while to get through, and a while to understand and get into.

But I’m not reading to learn life lessons, or how to write a book. I’m not even reading to improve my English. I’m reading to enjoy it. To experience stories beyond my own. Reading for pleasure doesn’t come from an adult telling you that you should put down the book you want to read and pick the ‘better’ one they’ve chosen for you instead. Discovering the stories that get you excited is so important, and it’s difficult to do that when your school limits what you can read by the complexity of a book’s sentence structure.

If you want kids to develop a love of reading, then let them read what they love. Perhaps reading one genre will lead to them becoming interesting in another, or perhaps they’ll just love that book — it doesn’t matter. Sharing stories is what matters.

I think that YA fiction is one of the most exciting, diverse genres — we definitely do still have progress to make, as we always do, not just within the books but in authors and publishing as well — and it’s so important for teens to be able to see themselves in books. YA can give a sense of belonging and validation. It can tell young people (and older people) that they’re not alone. There are just so many goddamn amazing YA novels out there.

So before you tell me that my favourite books are trash: maybe pick up a YA book yourself. You might actually enjoy it.

The School Book Tag

school book tag.jpg

I was tagged to do this tag absolutely AGES ago — back in September, I think — by Engie @ Musings From Neville’s Navel, and it was originally created by Chloe Lauren @ Diary of a Lonely Girl.  NaNoWriMo is slightly eating up my time so I thought it would be a good idea to do a fun post like this! (Although all my posts are fun, obvs, sometimes my brain needs a bit of a break.) (I’m also listening to Leslie Odom Jr’s Christmas album as I write this. It’s beautiful. Don’t judge me.)

radio silence alice oseman

MATHS

a book that has two characters who equal perfection

I think this was supposed to be, like, a romantic couple, but I’m going to go ahead and say FRANCES AND ALED FROM RADIO SILENCE. I know I talk about this book basically every other post but it is awesome and you should all definitely read it. (I think I’ve written this sentence a lot in this post, haha.) Aled and Frances are basically just friend goals and I love them. They have problems but they’re asdfjkl so cute and great and nerdy.

miseducation of cameron post

BIOLOGY

a book I would like to dissect

Science was originally just one category — a book you found hard to get into — but I decided to add a couple of my own because I AM ACTUALLY A REALLY BIG SCIENCE NERD. I like busting science stereotypes, and I also like more sciences, so here we are. (I do hope that’s okay!)

Anyway! I’m going to go with The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M Danforth. I have been thinking a lot about this book lately since I somehow persuaded my friends that it was super cool and now their school English book group is reading it? But it reminded me HOW MUCH I FREAKING LOVE IT. It’s literally an amazing book. The reason I chose it for this option, which was kinda supposed to be a book that you love to pick apart, turn over, and analyse, is because IT HAS SO MANY PARTS. It’s super well-written, and it has such circular kind of narrative. (That’s probably the wrong word. Maybe I should say it comes full circle. Oh well.) Whilst still being a coming out book of sorts, it subverts so many tropes that I don’t like to read in traditional coming out-y books… It’s just an incredibly nuanced and beautiful story. YOU ALL SHOULD READ IT ASAP.

barefoot-on-the-wind

PHYSICS

a book with a lot of potential

This one is supposed to be an unreleased/unread book that sounds super cool. I’m choosin Barefoot on the Wind by Zoe Marriott! I saw Zoe at YA Shot and that basically rekindled my intense love for her books. THEY ARE ALL GREAT AND I HIGHLY RECOMMEND. This is the sequel to Shadow on the Moon, a fantasy Cinderella retelling in Japan. (Also includes the first trans character I ever read, I think…? Which I only realised like super recently.) Barefoot on the Wind is a Beauty and the Beast retelling in the same world, with feminism and cool original spins. She talked about it a bunch at the fantasy/women/power panel I attended and it just made me really hyped.

the-next-together

CHEMISTRY

a book I really bonded to

#sorrynotsorry for my extremely bad science jokes. We’ve been learning bonding in Chemistry at schools so it is really on my mind. For this one I’m picking The Next Together by Lauren James, which was an incredibly enjoyable read for me because it just HAD SO MANY THINGS I LIKE. Time travel! Humour! Science! History! Cute people being cute! Reincarnation! The premise was just amazing. It fits me so well. (I am also very excited for its sequel which also has QUEER GIRLS which is EVEN MORE MEEEE.)

aristotle and dante

ENGLISH

a book that should be a modern classic

Ooh there are SO MANY books I could have gone with here, but I really love Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I think it get quits a lot of recommendations, but it really does deserve it — it’s such a beautifully written, nuanced, and complex book. (But also really readable.) Literally just everything I want to read? It should definitely be a modern classic. And also more people should read Benjamin Alire Saenz’s other books too, because they are also excellent. *nods*

gena-finn

P.E.

a book that I raced to the finish with

I recently read Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson and it was very cool. 😀 It’s written in like, messages and journal entries? So it was a pretty fast read — and also the story was just page-turning in itself. (Exceedingly-beautiful-page turning. The physical edition of this book is literally SO BEAUTIFUL, guys.)

carry on uk cover

MUSIC

a book that reminds me of a song

I feel like this post is basically just me repeating all the books that I always talk about but…Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. I was already listening to Rainbow’s Carry On playlist before the book actually came out. Every time I open the book I just think of all the songs with Carry On. (Carry On My Wayward Son, Carry On, Bohemian Rhapsody.) All Rainbow’s books have music things in them, actually, but this one in particular for me.

I’m tagging Lia @ Lost in a Story, Michelle @ The Writing Hufflepuff and absolutely anyone else who wants to give this a try! Although, as ever, please don’t feel pressured to do this tag; it’s totally up to you. 🙂

what’s YOUR favourite school subject? what do you think of science? are you doing nanowrimo/shrieking incessantly like me?

On Banned Books & Censoring Teen Fiction

I’ve always had a lot of thoughts about censoring YA and children’s literature. For me, books covering subjects which are maybe less accepted in day-to-day life are so important. I’m a big believer in not banning books, especially kid’s ones, because very often those are ones which have very important messages. (Plus: if you ban a book, it just makes kids want to read it more. So obviously not a good tactic.)

Anyway. I once read an interview with an author who I will strategically not name saying that children’s innocence should be protected… and I’m just like NO. Books are not about protecting innocence. Books are not about sheltering kids from the world around them — because yes, there are bad things happening in the world. Death exists. I think that it is so, so important to learn about the existence of suffering because if you just wait until you’re an adult then YOU WILL KNOW NOTHING. It’s going to be a big shock when you discover that, you know, sometimes pain actually exists. Sometimes you will experience pain.

I so dislike the assumption that children’s and adult’s books must be completely separate — that I can’t deal with ‘adult’ books. I’m often very frustrated by the age restrictions that appear everywhere. (I used to add, like, 3 years to my age or whatever.) One of my friends has been turned away from looking at the YA section in a bookshop because the assistant thought she looked too young. You can’t pick and choose your audience simply based on age, because…people don’t work like that? WE’RE ALL REALLY DIFFERENT. Some are more ready to read things than others, and that’s 100% okay.

We don’t want to be pushed away from books. We don’t want you to tell us that we can’t read George Orwell because the sentence structure is too simple for our reading level. Newsflash: sometimes, like, you actually can’t just judge books using a machine? Sometimes there are complex ideas behind them? All this red tape just doesn’t make sense to me. I think it is important to let people know what is inside — for instance, The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks (whilst for me a fascinating book) has literally no indication of the horrors inside. And I think perhaps a little warning of that would be nice, because then people know what they’re getting into and they can make a decision for themselves about whether to read it.

But we can judge for ourselves what we are able to read. Kids & teens are sensible people! If something is making me upset then I will put the book down, or skip ahead a section. We’re good at knowing what’s appropriate for us; it isn’t just like watching a movie passively. You actively have to make the decision to keep reading.

The thing which sparked me to return to this post — which has been stewing in the back of my mind for ages — was a review marking a book with a bi MC for junior & senior high readers only. This cropped up on Twitter, and it was approximately the worst time for the magazine to publish this because HELLO BI AWARENESS WEEK. You might have already seen it going around twitter. But it is…wrong in so many ways. It’s not particular to this reviewer, though; sadly from my experience it’s a rather common theme that queer = mature. That makes me really sad. Like, according to this review I shouldn’t be reading this book. It definitely makes sense to stop bi teens from, like, actually reading about themselves for once. God forbid it give them a little hope.

I just. Queer characters are not mature content; they are not to be filtered out. LGBTQ+ people exist just as straight ones do. Queer books have honestly been my lifeline. Information is super cool and all, but — books are books. Endlessly not seeing yourself in books is sad.

I would like queer books to be recommended alongside any other book. Their stories have just as much worth. We shouldn’t be protecting kids from them — I mean, if anything, we should be writing and supporting more queer kid lit. For my 11-year old self to not think that randomly choosing a crush on a boy was the only option.

Also, as I was writing this post I came across the ALA Banned Books week, which is actually running over this week! Interestingly, they even have a section about diverse books which are frequently challenged. A good number of the top 10 challenged books feature homosexuality as a legitimate reason to ban the book. *scowls* rest assured that I’m really looking forward to all the cool Banned Books stuff happening!

Stories are so important. Don’t filter them out just because you think someone else won’t like them.

One Page More! E01: Politics & Government in YA

one page more 2.jpg

One more book, one more page…one page more!

*punches the air in enthusiasm* I’m so excited to finally be sharing with you guys my new podcast. 😀 (Yes. Podcast. EXCITING TIMES.) One Page More! is a monthly podcast in which I  — along with various bookish and bloggerly guests — talk about YA, musicals, and social issues. Essentially, as I so eloquently put, all the things that I love. 😛 We’ll hopefully be covering all sorts from new releases to particular topics and random chatter. For the inaugural episode, I was joined by the wonderful Elly @ A Hufflepuff’s Thoughts and Victoria @ Doodles and Scraps to discuss politics & government in YA. Go forth and listen, my friends!

I do hope that you enjoy, and I also hope that this will continue to grow and develop as I work on it. I have a lot of things to learn — okay, next time I seriously do need to say ‘like’ and ‘um’ less — but I’m excited to be sharing flailings with you in a different format. (Also compose another jingle.

Also: I’m on the lookout for people to guest with me, so if you think that would be your cup of tea then do give a shout by commenting below; I’d love to hear from you! 😀

Are YOU the Chosen One?

ya fantasy post.jpg

Think that you might be the protagonist of a YA Fantasy? Find out here, and discover whether you actually need to save the entire world or not!*

You’ve always been a Normal Plain Jane. You’re totally average looking, which is to say that you could be a supermodel. Which is to say that you are a straight white female with dramatic red hair living in the USA — and you have an improbable name like Satchel. Or Canada. Or Sage. Because why not. You’re kind-of-but-not-really in love with your quirky guy best friend.

If you are not a Normal Plain Jane-slash-supermodel, then you are likely to be Harry Potter 2.0. (Because every fantasy novel ever must be compared to the first fantasy series ever. Obviously.) This time around you are a straight white male with green eyes and messy dark hair living in the USA. You might have a slightly less stupid name, but you can’t be sure.

Anyway. Whether you are Normal Plain Jane-slash-supermodel or Harry Potter 2.0, you have recently been thrust into a brand new world at the tender age of 16. Whilst looking through your recently deceased grandmother’s attic (you just inherited her grand old house) you found a mysterious magical item that suddenly caused strange things to happen around you. Well, strange things have always happened around you, but you’ve only started realising it now because you’re super smart.

The strange happenings build up. Something dramatic happens that tips the scales. You can’t lie to the people in your tiny boring town anymore. You run out of your kitchen with tears streaking down your face. But just when you think everything is beyond fixing, a mysterious, beautiful, brooding boy with green eyes turns up to help you. (Only you’re Normal Plain Jane-slash-supermodel. Harry Potter 2.0 does things all alone and kisses the pretty girl at the end. There are no options except outdated gender roles and m/f couples.) He saves you but is also very rude to you. He told you that you should mind your own business and he doesn’t know you can see all the magical creatures. You’re confused and distressed — you insist that you’re just normal. Despite his rudeness, you find him mysterious and intriguing. You think that he probably has a tortured backstory that causes him to be this way.

You feel guilty about your guy best friend who you’re kind-of-but-not-really in love with. Whoops. But Brooding Boy is just awfully intriguing. You think that you might be the only girl to get behind his snippy façade.

Anyway. Somehow along the way here you manage to pick up a wizened mentor. This old bearded dude tells you that you’re actually the prophesied chosen one. You’re not any normal kind of magical being — no, you are a Special Combination that allows you to save the whole magical world from the Raving Evil Villain. The wizened mentor possibly gives you a bit more advice, but as soon as it’s convenient he dies.

Who even knows where your parents are at this point. Oh no, I remember: you’re an orphan! You’ve been living with foster parents all your life. Except they’re not around either… huh. Weird. Oh well, you have bigger fish to fry right now.

Like that dramatic prophecy. You have no idea how it could be true. You’re just a normal teenager! How on earth will you save the whole magical world? Ah, now you remember: the wizened mentor instructed you to find the a special magical object that will be integral in your defeat of the Raving Evil Villain. (He’s really evil, is this one. Wants to take over the entire world. What an original plan.)

You embark on a long and dangerous journey. Although this probably takes up a decent chunk towards the end of the book , it’s mostly walking and sexual tension with the Brooding Boy. The boring/mysterious forest just outside your boring/mysterious town is a lot further away than you had thought. But let’s just gloss over that because it’s not particularly interesting. (Though it would have been a lot easier if Wizened Mentor hadn’t conveniently died, to be honest.)

Yes. Once you find said special magical object, the Raving Evil Villain appears. Your heartbeat gets so loud that you are sure he can hear you from your hiding place. But it doesn’t matter, because you selflessly decide to reveal yourself and save everyone else. There is a dramatic showdown.  Potentially you are injured, but odds are that you live. (There are still another 2 books in this series for you to star in, after all.) The Raving Evil Villain explodes in a poof of darkness and evilness. Exhausted, you fall into the arms of Brooding Boy. Just as he professes his love to you, everything fades to black.

When you reawaken, you are preparing to leave. You have been unconscious for several hours but experience no serious health effects, which is dubious considering most people only faint for a few seconds. Anyway. Then you return home in a way quicker time than it took you to arrive. Everyone hails you as a hero, except for a few token pessimists who think you’re a fraud. You have been changed forever. You’re still struggling to deal with your whole situation. But whatever’s wrong inside you can be instantly fixed by the love of the Brooding Boy. Somewhere in all of this your best friend found his soulmate and he is happily dating her. The book ends on a final bittersweet domestic scene as you are recovering with Brooding Boy. Turns out he does have a heart of gold after all.

are you the protagonist of a YA fantasy? (if so, WHAT ARE YOU DOING STILL HERE?! you should be saving us all!)

*Not entirely serious. I am, in fact, a big fan of YA fantasy. 😛 If you enjoyed this, you may also want to check out its YA Dystopia counterpart! And just as a reminder: this is a scheduled posts, and I am currently away with no wifi.  But I would love to meet any potential Chosen Ones when I return on 4th August!

The Les Mis Book Tag

les mis book tag final2.jpg

If at this point you didn’t know I have an obsession with Les Mis: I HAVE AN OBSESSION WITH LES MIS. And very recently it was the one year anniversary of my becoming obsessed with Les Mis, so this is my celebration post! *showers confetti* Also, I was upset that a Hamilton book tag existed but a Les Mis one didn’t, so. I MADE ONE MWAHAHA. It may have resulted in me bursting into song/tears at random intervals whilst writing, but those are basically common occurences anyway ahaha 😛

I Dreamed a Dream

i had a dream my life would be so different from this hell i’m living: a book that didn’t live up to your high expectations

My mind is very much on French history as I write this post, so I’m going to with Liberty’s Fire by Lydia Syson. I WAS SO HYPED FOR THIS: Paris! Revolution! Queer characters in history! Alas, it was not to be. The romance bored me immensely, and it was such a significant part of the book that it basically ruined the whole thing for me.

vicious ve schwabThe Confrontation

i’ve hunted you across the years: your favourite literary duo

I just reread Vicious by V.E. Schwab, which is possibly one of my favourite books of all time. Obviously I have to choose Victor and Eli. I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S GETTING A SEQUEL ASDFJKL. (Although Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton are a close second.

Castle on Cloud

i know a place where no one cries: a book you have read that made you comforted + happy

I think I could go for Fangirl, but I also adore Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun as a pick-me-up book. Fangirl feels like a warm hug, but IGYTS feels like a ray of rainbows and sunshine and happiness to be alive beaming down on me. It just makes me want to art and love and dance and asdfjkl I REALLY LOVE THIS BOOK. I encourage absolutely everyone to read it. *nods*

the rest of us just live hereRed and Black

red, the blood of angry men: a book you have an unpopular opinion about

I’m doing a shadowing group for the Carnegie medal right now, and there was a very…well, interesting opinion on Patrick Ness’ The Rest of Us Just Live Here. Everyone complained that it was too boring and the satirical excerpts of Satchel and the indie kids would have made a better book. Which I thoroughly disagree with. It was just a mash-up of everything I hate in dystopian YA. *coughs* I don’t think The Rest of Us is for everyone, but personally I did love it!

Do You Hear the People Sing?

will you get up and follow me?: a book you read due to hype

I read The Secret History by Donna Tartt purely because I saw about a million aesthetic edits for it on Tumblr and I wondered what all the fuss was. I did like it, but…I was very confused for a lot of it. I think this post explains it quite accurately.

One Day More

one more dawn, one more day: a book that kept you reading into the next chapter (and the next and the next)

I couldn’t tear myself away from A Gathering of Shadows from V.E. Schwab. I read it at every available opportunity, leading to various spillages of toothpaste and food on my Kindle. (That thing has seen a lot of wear and tear but it’s still alive.) IT WAS DEFINITELY WORTH IT. And it’s definitely worth choosing for my second Schwab book in this tag. Ahem.

On My Own

still i say there’s a way for us: a ship of yours that isn’t canon

I was planning on trying to…well, keep out of using Les Mis as actual answers for the Les Mis book tag. Since I thought it might provide a nice sense of irony. But I don’t think I can let this one go: Eponine/Cosette. I was reminded of my love for this ship when I saw this excellent Grease AU art and asdfjkl. WHY IS THERE NOT MORE GOOD FIC. Marius is an adorable dork, but Eponine and Cosette are like the even more adorable/scary power. I SHIP IT SO MUCH & I DON’T CARE IF THERE IS NO BASIS FOR THEIR RELATIONSHIP IN CANON AT ALL.

radio silence alice osemanDrink With Me

let the wine of friendship never run dry: your favourite bookish friendship

Frances and Aled from Alice Oseman’s Radio Silence have SUCH an awesome friendship. (And yes, I am going to keep talking about this book forever and ever until you all read it because it’s literally so fabulous.) I feel like they’re so honest with each other! It’s great to be able to be yourself. Also, yay for girl-boy friendships that don’t turn into relationships. 🙂

Bring Him Home

let me die, let him live: that one character you will do anything to see protected

Agatha Wellbelove, obviously. I am distraught at the fandom hate she gets. My friend said she had the personality of a wet dishcloth. SHE IS AMAZING AND BADASS AND SHE IS NOT TAKING ANY OF SIMON’S CRAP. She’s a canonical Doctor Who geek. Support Agatha Wellbelove 2k16. (Although I’m still hoping Gansey doesn’t completely die in The Raven King. I’ll probably know by the time this is published, oh god.) (Edit: I can confirm this I have finished TRK as we speak but NO SPOILERS.)

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

now my friends are dead and gone: a character death you don’t think you’ll ever recover from (spoilers beware!)

Maybe Sam Cortland from Throne of Glass. Until Queen of Shadows I still had my theories that he somehow wasn’t dead, but… I don’t think so. And I know I said I’d keep Les Mis to a minimum, but obviously I’m going to have to talk about the very major character deaths of many significant characters in that. *coughs* WHY, VICTOR HUGO, WHY. Let’s just pretend those parts didn’t happen, okay? would it be cruel to put a GIF of everyone lying dead here yes it would

AND THAT IS THE END. *dramatically sweeps hands* Sadly I couldn’t do all the Les Mis songs, although I did start with almost that number so be impressed at my restraint. I’m not super sure who’s listened to/likes Les Mis, but I’m tagging my usual musical theatre partner in crime Evi @ Adventuring Through Pages. (And here is my reminder that we wrote an excellent fandom war between Les Mis and Hamilton. Which I thoroughly recommend you read.) But feel totally free to do this tag, pick and choose questions + use the title image yourself! My only request is that you link back to this post and keep the image credit. 🙂

Just to recap, because I know how annoying it is to keep copy and pasting, the tag questions are:

  • I Dreamed a Dream: a book that didn’t live up to your high expectations
  • The Confrontation: your favourite literary duo
  • Castle on a Cloud: a book that comforts you
  • Red and Black: an unpopular bookish opinion
  • Do You Hear the People Sing?: a book you read because of hype
  • One Day More: a book that kept you reading into the next chapter (and the next and the next)
  • On My Own: a ship of yours that isn’t canon
  • Drink With Me: your favourite bookish friendship
  • Bring Him Home: that one character you will do anything to protect
  • Empty Chairs at Empty Tables: a character death you don’t think you’ll ever recover from

what books do you love? do you like any musicals? how would you answer my questions?

The Problem With the Strong Female Protagonist™

strong female protagonist2

You’re sassy, physically strong and person most likely to kick butt. You are Not Like Other Girls. You probably don’t like ‘girly’ things. But you’re in a love triangle with two guys either way. They’re in love with your unique bravery unlike any other bravery. Introducing: the Strong Female Protagonist™. *movie trailer voice*

I see the topic of ‘strong female protagonist’ come up a lot in discussions about books and feminism. I’d be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t enjoy any characters like this. I love Katniss Everdeen! I love Alina Starkov! I was always looking for girls having adventures when I was younger. I think this trope sprang from the typical weak damsel in distress figure (particularly in fantasy) and I have no inherent problem with it.

But. But. I often feel like now the only way to have a strong female character is to have a Strong Female Protagonist™. I see double standards from female readers: if male characters show weakness, it’s cute and makes the reader feel protective. If a female character shows weakness, she’s whiny. (I’m not ridding myself of blame. I’ve done this too, though I’m trying to be more aware of it.) Case in point: the Raven Cycle. I adore Blue Sargent with all of my heart, yet so many people say “She’s not a feminist; she lets Gansey call her Jane!1!!” but will ignore the assholery of the Raven Boys themselves. NONE OF US ARE PERFECT PEOPLE. I’m not a perfect feminist. Not all fictional characters are mouthpieces for the views of the authors.

Girls who want to be traditionally feminine are not weak female characters. A feminist character is just a well-rounded, realistic character rather than a cookie cutter stereotype. We’re all people.  In my eyes, a strongly written female character equates a strong female character! I think it’s very important to realise bravery manifests itself in different place, but I also want people to remember that not everyone is brave. I want cowardly and villainous characters as well as brave ones. Girls don’t have to act masculine to be strong.

I think the response to some female characters has made me like them more. (Always rooting for the underdog, me.) And I especially like to be angrily in love with characters. I will protect Agatha Wellbelove with every part of my soul; the backlash she’s received from the fandom has only made me like her more. AGATHA IS WEAK? Please. She literally tells Simon she doesn’t want to be an object to be possessed. That’s not weak. That’s bloody brave. I cannot fathom it. Of course I adore Penny too, and I like that she has to reconcile herself with the idea that feminism = giving people a choice. I liked the exploration of that — “What if I want the gingerbread men to be pink?” — but I think Agatha has been interpreted in different ways.

There are countless quieter female characters that I wish weren’t left aside or even demonised so: Eliza Hamilton, Genya Safin, Cosette Fauchelevent. (I’ve seen Sansa/Arya comparisons for this argument, but I’ve only read half the first book. So I don’t feel very qualified to make a judgement.) Cath Avery might on the surface seem like she fits into this, but I feel like SO many readers of Fangirl really saw ourselves in her. And it’s contemporary, which I feel is a little more ‘allowed’.

Fantasy and dystopia in particular seem to see the Strong Female Protagonist™ as a necessity. High fantasy draws a lot on history for its worldbuilding, and history does tend to be patriarchal. In this setting women are typically inferior, meaning the way to be strong is to act like a man. I’m just…a bit tired of that brand of medieval European high fantasy. Authors: it’s ok, you’re allowed to be creative! Obviously sexism still exists in modern-day world so, you know, you don’t have to turn it into a totally equal utopian society. Most books are based around conflict. But hopefully we’ll be seeing more books playing around with and further exploring the various balances of power in the future.

I don’t want Strong Female Protagonists™.  We never say that we’re looking for strong male characters; they’re just accepted as such. I want to see complex and rounded female characters within interesting novels. After all, women are people too.

further reading:

  • Women in fantasy Guardian books podcast — featuring Lucy Saxon, Samantha Shannon, Alwyn Hamilton and Sally Green. I highly encourage you to listen to the whole thing if you have a spare moment, but the particular discussion of this topic is at about 7:30 mins in.
  • Women Are People Too by Jupe @ The Awkward Dragon (plus the Savannah Brown video that inspired the post) — a discussion of femininity and “I’m not like other girls.”

what do you think about kick-ass female heroines? love them, like them, hate them? any other tropes that rile you up?